Best of our wild blogs: 5 Oct 16

Two container ships collide while anchored off East Coast Park
wild shores of singapore

139 scientists shoot down ‘misleading’ reports from Malaysia peat congress

Making its way down the Peninsula: Discovery of the non-native snail Crptozona siamensis in Singapore
News from Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Surveying Ubin's mangroves with R.U.M. volunteers
wild shores of singapore

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A floating nuclear power plant - off Singapore?

Lim Soon Heng For The Straits Times 4 Oct 16;

The Republic could be a world leader in building small reactors deployed at sea, including in nearby waters
The Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in 2011 left the world with a deep aversion to nuclear power.

However, the approval last month by Britain for the construction of a nuclear plant at Hinkley Point is a symbolic turning point.

Britain will pay £92.50 per megawatt hour of electricity produced (S$0.165/kwhr), rising with inflation, for 35 years, according to the Financial Times.

The price is substantially higher than the prevailing market rate for fossil fuels. The British government must have decided that the premium for the clean energy was worth paying. It is also a tacit acknowledgement that the harvesting of wind, solar and tidal current energies will not meet foreseeable demand.

Nuclear fission emits no pollutants or gases. A gas-, oil- or coal-fired power plant insidiously emits toxins and carbon dioxide, threatening life and destabilising the environment.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute: "As of May 2016, 30 countries worldwide are operating 444 nuclear reactors for electricity generation, and 63 new nuclear plants are under construction in 15 countries."

In Asia, by 2030, China expects to have 150 gigawatts (GWe) of electricity - Malaysia, 1 GWe; Vietnam, 10 GWe; and Indonesia, 35 GWe. In France, 75 per cent of the energy is from nuclear sources.

Is the nuclear option important for Singapore? Certainly. Ninety- five per cent of Singapore's energy needs are piped from Indonesia and Malaysia in the form of natural gas. The economy's heavy dependence on a single fuel type, and its mode of delivery, makes it vulnerable.

To diversify its procurement strategy, Singapore has built liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage and regasification facilities so that LNG can be shipped in addition to being piped. Storage facilities, including deep caverns and floating tank farms, have been developed.

However, LNG reserves are finite. Nobody is sure how much is left.

Renewable energy, such as solar power, is the only sustainable energy source for this century but the technologies to harness renewables economically still face challenges. Even if they are overcome elsewhere, in Singapore, the challenges will remain.

Solar energy is very costly because it is land-intensive. And renewable energy from hydro, wind and tidal current sources are not that available in Singapore.


The nuclear option is the only viable one. However, with an area of 713 sq km, Singapore does not have the space for a nuclear power plant. (For Fukushima, an area within a 20km radius from the plant was declared unsafe, an area 75 per cent larger than Singapore).

Retired Cambridge University don Andrew Palmer, formerly Keppel Chair professor in the department of civil engineering at the National University of Singapore, advocates building a nuclear plant underground. He argues that, in this way, "any leak is contained, it is easier to defend the site against terrorism, and land is used more efficiently".

Leak or no leak, I wonder if anyone living or working above the plant will feel safe. Instead, I would like to propose that a nuclear plant, if needed, should be built at sea, as a floating platform. After all, in the event of a dangerous situation, we should move the plant - not the people around the plant. There is only one way to do this: The plant has to be afloat at sea.

The advent of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) provides a viable solution. SMRs are serially manufactured fission reactors with capacities ranging from about 50 to 500 megawatts. A number of countries, notably Russia and France, produce SMRs.

Each reactor module is transportable by sea. SMRs produce heat by fission of a nuclear material, emitting no gas. The heat may be used to produce steam to drive turbines or for desalination or other industrial processes.

The systems downstream of the heat source are the same as those found in any conventional steam-turbine power plant.

A floating SMR power plant (or fSMR) consists of a nuclear fission reactor below the water line. The boiler drum, turbine, condenser, alternator and transformers are, for ease of operation and maintenance, installed above the water line. An air-gap between both improves stability.

The suite of offshore oil rigs - semi-submersibles, jack-ups, tension leg platforms, spars and drill ships - provides many possible solutions to the hull form.

Circulating water for the condenser comes from the sea beneath, eliminating space for cooling towers. The footprint of each fSMR is less than 100m in any direction. Its design is not site-specific. It can be installed anywhere with sufficient water depth, regardless of the geology of the seabed. It is deployable, and is easily replaced with a new one when it gets old.

These floating plants do not require refuelling for months or even years. Refuelling is done at a dedicated place to which they may be towed. Maintenance and decommissioning are carried out at an accredited shipyard. A spare fSMR can stand in during the time it is taken out of commission.


Singapore is a world leader in offshore rig solutions. Although it would be a quantum leap, it is an incremental step to move from the construction of oil rigs to fSMRs.

We need only to develop the expertise to install and commission the nuclear reactor. The skill set for the rest of the system downstream of the reactor is not new.

The existing infrastructure - mooring specialists, heavy-lift cranes, classification societies and dry tow transporters - will support an fSMR construction industry. From being a world leader in offshore rigs, Singapore has what it takes to be a world leader in building fSMRs. However, its yards need a strategic partner that can deliver the SMR, with a good brand like France's Areva. A matchmaker is needed to bring the two parties together. The Economic Development Board can fulfil that role.

Can an fSMR be defended against terrorism? Sure.

The sea surrounding Singapore is among the safest in the world due to the high level of vigilance and port protocol. Nevertheless, a concrete floating barrier/breakwater of 200m in diameter should be built around the fSMR.

The mooring system for the barrier would be designed to allow the barrier to move a couple of metres. The compression of the fenders, the motion of the barrier and the friction of the water will absorb the kinetic energy of the impact when any collision occurs.

Radar, underwater ultrasonic, weapon-bearing drones and high- voltage fencing would provide additional surveillance and protection.

Can the fSMR's off-peak output be used? Of course.

I have encouraged the national water agency PUB to consider the use of floating, steel-framed reservoirs with fabric linings.

A desalination plant with a floating reservoir can be located close to an fSMR to tap energy during the night off-peak hours. This would smooth the load and optimise efficiency. The reservoir may be used to grow vegetables or rear fish.

Has it been done before? Yes. Since the first nuclear submarine USS Nautilus in 1954, many naval and icebreaking ships are nuclear-powered.

Shipyards in Russia and China are, or will be, increasingly used to build floating nuclear plants.

In the United States, even though wind, tidal current, solar and shale gas are abundant, fSMR interest is emerging. Professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin have gone public with plans to design fSMRs, inspired by advances in offshore rig-building technology.

While the capital cost of an fSMR is high, the levelised cost is not prohibitive. This is a measure of the cost of producing renewable energy over its expected lifetime energy output. This unit cost is derived by dividing the lifecycle cost, including land, capital expenditure, construction, fuel, operation and maintenance on a present-value basis by all the energy produced over the life of the plant.

In Singapore, due to the very high cost of land, the difference between the levelised costs of an fSMR and a conventional gas-fired plant would be attractive.

To be sure, the notion of a floating nuclear plant in Singapore may seem startling to some. But my point is that this is a sensible solution that builds on Singapore's expertise in offshore rig building, and which can be cost-effective. It is no sci-fi solution, but a distinct possibility.

•The writer is managing director of Floating Solutions LLP.

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Two anchored cargo ships collide in Singapore waters

Two cargo vessels crash in rare accident off Singapore
CYNTHIA CHOO The New Paper 5 Oct 16;

In a rare accident, two anchored cargo ships collided in Singapore waters, sending 10 containers toppling from one ship to another.

Another container fell into the sea in the crash on Friday.

The accident involving cargo ship Hanjin New York added to the woes of collapsed South Korean maritime company Hanjin Shipping.

But no oil pollution or injuries were reported.

A spokesman for the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) told The New Paper: "The Hanjin New York dragged anchor and contacted the bow of a Liberia-registered container ship, MSC Claudia.

"Ten 40-foot empty containers fell from Hanjin New York onto MSC Claudia's bow and one 40-foot empty container fell into the sea."

TNP understands that there were strong currents when the collision occurred.

It is believed to be the first case of an anchor drag collision off Singapore. TNP understands that the MPA has not come across previous anchor drag accidents.

The two cargo container vessels were anchored at Eastern Bunkering "A" near the Singapore Anchorage off Changi Naval Base when the accident happened at about 6pm.

The container that fell into the sea has been retrieved and arrangements are being made to remove the 10 containers from MSC Claudia.

The MPA spokesman said that both vessels sustained minor indentations and were later safely re-anchored.

MPA is investigating the incident.

Mr Eugene Cheng, 29, a lawyer specialising in shipping litigation from Gurbani and Co LLC, said: "One of the most common reasons why vessels collide is because of the failure of the crew to maintain a proper lookout."

Hanjin Shipping, the seventh-largest shipping carrier in the world, first made news in late August when creditors Rickmers sued the company for owing some $7.3 billion.

This led to an arrest of Hanjin's vessels, leaving more than 80 Hanjin vessels and crew onboard stranded around the globe.


One such vessel, the Hanjin Rome, was in Singapore waters when it was arrested at 9.20pm on Aug 29 and the cargo was stuck aboard along with 24 crew members - 11 South Koreans and 13 Indonesians.

TNP reported on Oct 1 that five crew members had been repatriated on Sept 27 including the vessel's former captain Moon Kwon Do, but the Hanjin Rome is still stuck in Singapore waters. An interim stay order granted by the Singapore Supreme Court on Sept 16 meant that Hanjin's vessels were allowed to berth in Singapore's ports to offload cargo.

Hanjin's vessels from the region have since made a beeline for the port of Singapore.

Hanjin Shipping's website reported that at least seven Hanjin vessels have berthed at the Tanjong Pagar Terminal since the collision happened on Friday, including the Hanjin New York.

The MPA said yesterday that there are three Hanjin vessels in Singapore.

At least two other vessels, Hanjin Netherlands and Hanjin China, are expected to berth in the next three days.

Minor ship collision involving Hanjin vessel off Singapore
Channel NewsAsia 5 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: An anchored container ship belonging to beleaguered Hanjin Shipping made contact with another container ship in the eastern waters of Singapore last week, displacing 10 containers on board, the Maritime Port Authority (MPA) confirmed on Wednesday (Oct 5).

The incident involving Hanjin New York and Liberia-registered container ship MSC Claudia occurred at around 6pm last Friday. The Hanjin ship “dragged anchor" and contacted the bow of MSC Claudia, the MPA said in a statement in response to queries.

As a result, ten 40-foot length containers fell from Hanjin New York onto MSC Claudia’s bow and one 40-foot container fell into the sea, MPA said. The containers involved were all empty.

MPA said that the container that fell into the sea has been retrieved and arrangements are being made to remove the 10 containers from MSC Claudia.

Following the incident, both vessels, which were anchored at Eastern Bunkering “A” waiting for their respective berths, sustained minor indentations and were re-anchored safely after the incident.

No injuries or oil pollution were reported, and investigations by MPA are ongoing, it said.

A string of vessels operated by Hanjin Shipping have made their way to Singapore, following a High Court ruling which declared the Singapore port as one of the "safe havens" for the world’s seventh-biggest container line that went into court receivership last month.

According to a notice dated Oct 5 on PSA's website, at least 11 vessels belonging to the shipping giant have called and departed from local ports. Two others including Hanjin New York berthed at the terminal on Tuesday and are estimated to leave by Thursday.

At least two other vessels are expected to call at Singapore's ports this week, according to the notice.

Hanjin Group CEO apologises for shipping chaos
Today Online 5 Oct 16;

SEOUL — The chairman of South Korea’s Hanjin Group has apologised for the “cargo chaos” caused by the collapse of its shipping unit, but insisted the company could, and should, be salvaged.

Hanjin Shipping, the world’s seventh largest shipping company, is seeking bankruptcy protection at home and in the US after creditors rejected its latest plan to deal with a US$5.37 billion (S$7.36 billion) debt.

Its bankruptcy would be by far the largest in the history of container shipping, which is suffering its worst downturn in six decades because of slumping global trade and a slowdown in China.

“I apologise to the public for causing concern over the cargo chaos,” Mr Cho Yang-Ho, chairman and CEO of Hanjin Group, was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying on Tuesday (Oct 4). “But I want to say that we have done everything we can do to save the shipper,” Mr Cho told a parliamentary hearing.

Hanjin Group, which also owns Korean Air, is providing 100 billion won (S$123 million) in emergency funds to the troubled shipping unit, which includes a personal donation of 40 billion won from Mr Cho.

Meanwhile, in Singapore, online shopping services provider Ezbuy said eight of its containers were affected by the Hanjin incident, affecting about 8,000 shoppers.

Ezbuy (formerly known as 65Daigou) helps shoppers buy and ship their goods from, among others, Chinese e-commerce giant Taobao. It offers a Prime membership that allows shoppers to ship an unlimited number of items to Singapore for a rate of S$2.99.

Ezbuy said it received news that eight of its containers were affected early last month, with delays ranging between a few days and two weeks

Most of the containers contained bulky items such as furniture, light fittings, home and gardening items ordered by its Prime members.

“The impact was quite intensive. Eight containers could (mean) 8,000 customers were affected by the delay,” Ezbuy co-founder Liu Wenyu told TODAY. “We engaged help from other freight forwarders to get our containers and re-shipped them to Singapore, that’s why the longest delay was two weeks,” she added.

“Upon receiving the news, we contacted the relevant parties immediately to find the status of the affected containers and the scale of the impact. We tried our best to get those containers re-shipped to Singapore and in the meantime also sent emails to affected customers to update them of the situation and let them know when they could expect their items. By Sept 23, all affected items had been resolved.”

In addition to causing delays to its customers, the Hanjin incident has also made a dent on Ezbuy’s finances.

“For some severely delayed items, we compensated customers according to our on-time shipment guarantee policy, even though this was something out of our control (and) we could be exempted from the policy,” Ms Liu said.

But because of the sheer size of Hanjin in the industry and its capacity, its collapse could have wider ramifications, Ms Liu said.

“Not only did we have to pay a premium to get other freight forwarder to help us quickly fulfill those eight affected containers, we foresee in the upcoming peak shopping season, freight costs will rise due to demand and supply imbalance,” she added.

However, she added, Ezbuy does not have plans to revise its shipping charges because it “wish to minimise the impact on our customers”. WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LEE YEN NEE

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Can peatland turn into oil palm fields and not cause haze?

Global group of scientists disputes Malaysian institute's claims of method that can do that
Audrey Tan Straits Times 4 Oct 16;

A dispute has erupted - politely - between scientists in the region over whether peatland can be converted into oil palm plantations in a manner that will not produce the seasonal haze.

On one side, there are the scientists from the Sarawak government-linked Tropical Peat Research Laboratory.

On the other, there are 139 scientists from international institutions led by National University of Singapore tropical peatland scientist Lahiru Wijedasa.

At the heart of the disagreement is whether the current method of converting peatland into oil palm plantations using mechanical soil compaction is sustainable and viable in the long run.

The Sarawak scientists had argued during the International Peat Congress held in Kuching, Sarawak, in August that this method could eradicate the negative impacts of peatland development - such as fires.

They also said that the compaction also reduces carbon dioxide emissions from peatland up to half from what was believed previously by many scientists, according to reports from The Jakarta Post.

This method involves flattening the peat so the soil remains wet even when water is drained for oil palm plantations.

But Mr Lahiru and the other scientists took issue with this.

"They are holding on to the scientifically unfounded belief that drained peatland agriculture can be made 'sustainable', and peat loss halted, via unproven methods such as peat compaction," Mr Lahiru, 33, told The Straits Times.

"Their insistence undermines the efforts taken by Indonesia, and other Indonesian and Malaysian agri-businesses, in working with independent scientists towards a sustainable solution."

He and the other 138 scientists signed a letter refuting the Malaysians' claims. It was published in science journal Global Change Biology online last Tuesday.

"Of great concern is that none of the agricultural management methods applied to date have been shown to prevent the loss of peat and the associated subsidence of the peatland surface following drainage," said the authors from institutions such as Oxford University and the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Research. Also included are scientists from six Singapore institutions.

A study cited by these scientists found that physical compaction in peatland development could lead about 82 per cent of the Rajang river delta in Sarawak, East Malaysia to become irreversibly flooded within 100 years. Substantial areas are already having drainage problems, said the study commissioned last year by the non-profit Wetlands International and done by research institute Deltares.

Mr Pek Shi Bao, policy research analyst for sustainability at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said there was a difference between independent scientists and those from government-linked institutes. "For the latter, their objective may be to improve sustainability practices of cultivating on peat, whereas the stance of many in the scientific community is that we shouldn't be planting on peat at all, and looking at restoration instead."

Any firm that wants to be seen as credible has to engage both independent and "more pro-cultivation scientists", he added.

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Remove Pokestops from off-limit areas of Singapore's nature reserves: NParks

Appeal made to Pokemon Go developer; aim is to stop players from damaging environment
Audrey Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Oct 16;

Please leave the sensitive areas in Singapore's nature reserves alone, the authorities here have urged the developers of the popular Pokemon Go mobile game.

The National Parks Board (NParks) has asked that Pokestops - the game's virtual pit stops found in real-world locations - be removed from off-limit areas of three nature reserves.

"This is to avoid situations of Pokemon Go players walking off trails while playing the game, inadvertently trampling the vegetation, disturbing wildlife and causing damage to the environment, and endangering themselves," said Mr Wong Tuan Wah, NParks' group director for conservation.

The affected Pokestops are found within the sensitive forest and wetland habitats of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. They are located in off-limit areas where people should not be entering in the first place. Under the Parks and Trees Act, it is an offence to enter any part of a nature reserve except through designated trails.

NParks had appealed to game developer Niantic to have the Pokestops removed in August, when the game was launched here. But a quick check by The Straits Times yesterday showed they were still there.

Mr Wong said NParks is aware that more people are visiting Singapore's nature reserves where Pokestops are located. Players of the game visit such stops, usually located at places of interest or landmarks, to obtain items such as Poke Balls, which can be used to catch virtual monsters called Pokemon.

A Niantic spokesman said: "We cannot confirm the status of removal requests for specific Pokestop and gym locations in Pokemon Go, but are moving quickly to review and address all such requests."

There are four nature reserves in Singapore, but wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai noted that the sensitive areas of Labrador Nature Reserve are already inaccessible.

He said NParks made an "excellent decision", adding that people have been spotted venturing off- trail to catch Pokemon. "It is important to balance recreation with biodiversity in the nature reserves. Even before Pokemon Go, people used to wander off-trail into these sensitive areas," he said. "Many rare animals roost and breed in these special core areas, and disturbance may disrupt their natural behaviour and even drive them onto the roads, where they end up as roadkill."

Pokemon Go players said it was a good idea to remove the Pokestops from nature reserves.

Customer service officer Ryan Logarta, 39, said: "They shouldn't be in protected areas. Pokemon can be caught in public areas anyway."

Mr T.S. Teo, 54, who is between jobs, said the move could help protect individuals too. "There are no designated trails in there, and people could get lost," he said.

NParks is not the first to ask to have Pokestops removed. The former concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, now a museum, had asked to be withdrawn from the game, as has the village of Kijkduin in the Netherlands, whose protected beaches have become flooded with Pokemon Go players.


It is important to balance recreation with biodiversity in the nature reserves. Even before Pokemon Go, people used to wander off-trail into these sensitive areas. Many rare animals roost and breed in these special core areas, and disturbance may disrupt their natural behaviour and even drive them onto the roads, where they end up as roadkill.

WILDLIFE CONSULTANT SUBARAJ RAJATHURAI, saying people have been seen venturing off-trail to catch Pokemon.

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Majority of fish consumed in Singapore not responsibly caught: WWF

Channel NewsAsia 4 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to make better consumption choices as three out of four common fish species consumed here are not responsibly caught, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said on Tuesday (Oct 4).

Fish varieties like the Indian threadfin (commonly known as ngoh hur) used in fish porridge, silver pomfret and the yellowbanded scad (also known as ikan kuning) used in nasi lemak are among those which Singaporean consumers should stop eating, the conservation group said.

A new seafood guide launched by WWF lists these fish species and others commonly used in local dishes as “avoid”.

“Without collective and decisive action, these popular fish could disappear from Singapore’s menus within our lifetime,” it said.

Singaporeans are one of the biggest consumers of seafood in the world, with each person consuming about 22kg of seafood a year, compared to the global average of 20kg, the conservation group said.

“We are squandering one of our greatest natural resources by failing to manage our fish stocks sensibly," said WWF-Singapore CEO Elaine Tan. "The seafood guide empowers everyone in the supply chain to make conscious choices that prevent the further exploitation of fish stocks.”

On Tuesday, WWF also launched the Responsible Seafood Group, consisting of organisations such as seafood supplier Global Ocean Link and luxury hotel Marina Bay Sands which have committed to responsible sourcing standards.

Marina Bay Sands’ Executive Director of Sustainability Kevin Teng said: "Since 2014, we have eliminated sharks fin from the restaurants we own and operate. At that time, we also started serving selected seafood sourced from suppliers that fish or farm responsibly, based on global seafood standards.”

- CNA/am

75% of popular seafood in Singapore not responsibly caught
WWF media release 4 Oct 16;

4 October 2016, Singapore – WWF has called for industry and public action to stem the increase of unsustainable seafood in Singapore. The new Singapore Seafood Guide, launched today, highlights the urgency for Singaporeans to make better consumption choices as 3 out of 4 common fish species have been flagged as unsustainable.

The guide evaluates over 40 popular seafood species in Singapore according to an international methodology.1 Compared to five years ago, fish varieties used in popular local dishes are now listed as ‘avoid’ in the guide. These include the Indian threadfin (locally known as “Ngoh Hur”) used in fish porridge; silver pomfret, commonly used in Chinese dishes, and yellowbanded scad (or “Ikan Kuning”), a key ingredient in nasi lemak. Without collective and decisive action, these popular fish could disappear from Singapore’s menus within our lifetime.

“We are squandering one of our greatest natural resources by failing to manage our fish stocks sensibly. As one of the biggest consumers of seafood in the world per capita2, Singaporeans have a big role to play in protecting our oceans. The Seafood Guide empowers everyone in the supply chain to make conscious choices that prevent the further exploitation of fish stocks,” said Elaine Tan, CEO, WWF-Singapore.

Responding to the growing crisis, Singapore’s seafood industry – consisting of retailers, hoteliers, restaurants and suppliers – has come together to crowdsource industry solutions at the Sustainable Seafood Business Forum today.

The Forum also kick started the Responsible Seafood Group, consisting of local industry leaders such as Global Ocean Link and Marina Bay Sands. Working with WWF-Singapore, they will commit to responsible sourcing standards and pave the way for the rest of the industry to follow suit.

"Our customers are demanding to know where their seafood comes from. Finding alternatives to endangered species on the red list and choosing to work with sustainable suppliers and their products has gone beyond being a corporate responsibility, and become a commercially viable decision for us,” said Lucas Glanville, Executive Chef of Grand Hyatt Singapore, which offers sustainable seafood in all restaurants, event spaces and in-room dining.

WWF cites Finland as an example of how a country with a population similar to Singapore’s can achieve sustainable seafood goals. Today, only 2% of all seafood sold in Finland is on WWF’s red list.

"Sustainability has become an everyday element in Finland’s seafood trade, and companies are very familiar with the origin of the fish they purchase. In addition, over one third of Finns use the seafood guide consciously to make better decisions,” says Matti Ovaska, WWF-Finland's Conservation Officer.

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Dengue vaccine Dengvaxia approved for use in Singapore

Lianne Chia Channel NewsAsia 4 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: A vaccine for the dengue virus has been approved for use in Singapore and is expected to be available in a few months’ time, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said on Tuesday (Oct 4).

Developed by Sanofi Pasteur, the Dengvaxia vaccine requires three doses to be administered over 12 months by injection. It is effective for up to four years after the third dose.

Dengvaxia is the first available vaccine against all four strains of dengue. It is currently approved for use in nine other countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Mexico and Brazil.

It is currently approved for use only for those aged between 12 and 45. Those outside of the approved age group but who want to be vaccinated will have to seek a doctor’s advice, the HSA said in a media briefing.

In response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, vaccine maker Sanofi said that, following HSA's approval, it is completing the local administrative processes with the Singapore authorities and aims to make the vaccine available "as soon as possible".

Sanofi added that the price of the vaccine in a private healthcare setting would vary between clinics and hospitals, as it "may include additional fees for related services charged by the private physician or clinic."


A total of 24 clinical studies with more than 41,000 subjects were conducted by Sanofi. Dengvaxia was approved by Singapore authorities after a review to ensure that the vaccine is relevant for the Singapore population and its benefits outweigh the risks, the HSA said.

Two groups of experts from HSA’s medical advisory committee and dengue expert panel – comprising doctors and infectious diseases specialists – were consulted during the review.

The 24 studies reviewed include two major clinical studies conducted in Latin America and Asia on individuals between two and 16 years old, and 22 supportive studies assessing the antibody levels in individuals following vaccination.

Overall, the vaccine was effective in reducing dengue illness by 60 per cent, and reducing severe dengue illness by 84 per cent.

The vaccine was also most effective in those who already have baseline immunity due to a previous dengue infection. It was 81 per cent effective in those who had dengue previously, compared to 38 per cent in those who had not been infected before.

However, the studies also showed that the vaccine is less effective against the DENV-1 and DENV-2 strains of dengue, which are the predominant strains in Singapore.


The vaccine was found to be safe and “generally consistent” with the safety profile expected of a vaccine, HSA said.

“All vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are minor – for example, a sore arm or low-grade fever – and they usually go away within a few days.”

However, in vaccinated children between nine and 11 years old, the studies showed a 30 per cent increase in risk of hospitalisation and three times the risk of severe dengue. Hence the vaccine has not been approved for use in younger children, the HSA said.

There was also “insufficient evidence” on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in those above 45 years old.

“HSA is prepared to review the approved age range when more clinical data becomes available that reduces the concern on those under 12 years old, and that provides more data on those above 45 years old,” it said.


The vaccine has been shown to be more effective in countries where there is a high prevalence of dengue, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.

“Singapore has relatively low prevalence of dengue infection compared to other Southeast Asian countries. For this reason, the vaccine will be less effective here,” it said.

The ministry’s expert committee on immunisation does not recommend rolling out Dengvaxia vaccination as a national programme as it “would not be a clinically and cost-effective means to tackling dengue infection in Singapore”.

As such, there will be no subsidies or Medisave usage for those who choose to take the vaccine, MOH added.

Those interested in getting the vaccine should consult their doctors on the benefits and risks of the vaccination, said HSA. The authorities will also distribute educational materials to doctors and patients detailing the approved indications and limitations of the vaccine, particularly for those without a previous dengue infection.

But infectious diseases specialist Dr Leong Hoe Nam from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital cautioned against rushing to get vaccinated, saying that the vaccine will not provide immediate protection against a dengue outbreak.

“If there’s a cluster happening in your household you shouldn’t rush to get vaccinated, as you will get full protection only after one year and three shots,” he said. “So your dengue cluster will happen and probably burn out within a month or so, and during that time you will not have the immunity required from the dengue vaccine.”

“You may, however, want to take up the vaccine for future protection,” he added.

- CNA/cy

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Four Zika clusters closed; no new cases in Singapore for third day running

Channel NewsAsia 4 Oct 16;

SINGAPORE: Four Zika clusters were closed on Tuesday (Oct 4), according to data on the National Environment Agency's (NEA) website.

The clusters at Joo Seng Road, Ubi Ave 1, Balam Road and Hougang Avenue 7 have all been declared closed after no new cases were reported there in the last two weeks.

Three clusters remain open - the main one at Aljunied/Sims Drive, as well as the Elite Terrace and Sengkang Central clusters. The Aljunied/Sims Drive cluster saw three new cases in the last fortnight, and the other two clusters had none.

NEA data also showed that no new Zika infections were reported in Singapore for the third consecutive day. The last confirmed case was reported on Oct 1.

As of Tuesday, a total of 399 locally transmitted Zika cases have been confirmed in Singapore.

- CNA/dt

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Malaysia: Contamination forces Semenyih plant to be closed again


PETALING JAYA: The Sungai Semenyih Water Treatment Plant has been forced to shut down again due to contamination, leading to water disruption in Selangor for the second time in a fortnight.

The plant, which was brought to a halt two weeks ago causing water cut to over 330,000 premises, was forced to cease operation at 10am yesterday.

Several areas in Petaling, Sepang, Hulu Langat and Kuala Langat districts faced water disruption from 11pm on Monday.

Green Technology and Environment Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong said the odour was noticed on Monday night which forced the shutdown.

“The treatment plant will resume operation when there is no more odour pollution in the Semenyih river,” she said in a statement yesterday.

Wong said the culprit responsible for the source of pollution had been traced to a factory located next to a building material company at 22 1/4 Mile, Jalan Sungai Lalang, Semenyih.

Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and officers from the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) and state Economic Planning Committee went to the factory yesterday to inspect its operations.

“MPKj closed the premises while waiting for the Department of Environment (DOE) to collect evidence of the contamination,” Wong added.

Wong said the case had been referred to the DOE for further action and investigation under the Environmental Quality Act 1974 and if convicted, the culprits could face a maximum fine of RM100,000 and/or five years in jail.

In addition, local authorities could revoke their licences and stop all business operations.

“No appeals will be heard as their irresponsible action affected over 1.8 million residences in the state,” she said.

Azmin said the factory had been found to be operating without a licence.

He added that MPKj had seized all equipment on the premises and the Hulu Langat District and Land Office would seize the land.

“In the long run, the state government will station teams at a few locations to monitor the river and ensure its cleanliness,” Azmin said in a statement yesterday.

“We urge the DOE to take responsibility to ensure all industries around the river basin abide by the law.”

Factory source of recent Sungei Semenyih contamination
The Star 4 Oct 16;

PETALING JAYA: The Selangor state government has identified the culprit responsible for the source of pollution that resulted in the shutting down of the Sungei Semenyih Water Treatment Plant.

Green Technology and Environment Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong, in a statement on Tuesday, identified the firm as being located near Taman Sri Haneco in Semenyih.

Wong said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali with officers from the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) and State Economic Planning Committee (Upen) went to the factory to look at its operations on Tuesday.

"MPKj has closed the premises while waiting for the Department of Environment to collect evidence of the contamination," Wong said in statement.

She said there was no activity at the factory since it was confirmed that it was the source of the contamination at Sungei Semenyih.

The closing of the treatment plant two weeks ago caused water cuts to over 300,000 households.

Company ordered shut for releasing foul emission into Sungai Semenyih
DAWN CHAN New Straits Times 4 Oct 16;

SHAH ALAM: A company operating near Sungai Semenyih, identified as the culprit behind major odour pollution here, has been closed and sealed and had its land confiscated.

Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, through his Twitter account @azminali, said the action was taken against an illegal company following the detection of a foul odour by a river surveillance team at 11pm and 11.40pm yesterday at Kampung Rinching Hilir.

He added that he had instructed Air Selangor, Luas and the Department of Environment to take swift action.

Luas, Kajang Municipal Council and Air Selangor have been at the site have been at the site at Batu 22¼, Semenyih, since last night, when the surveillance team detected the foul odour.

Azmin, who also visited the site this morning, said Luas lodged a police report at 2.45am today on the matter.

“The company conducted its activity without a licence.

MPKj (Kajang Municipal Council) has sealed the premises and seized all of its equipment.

The land office (Hulu Langat land and district office) has been directed to seize the land.

“The land office and MPKj have been directed to act against the owner of the land and the industrial activity there within seven days.

The state government will not compromise with any party, individual or company which sabotages or pollutes the river.

“As a long-term measure, the state government will appoint a river surveillance team and enforcement to be placed along several locations.

“Air Selangor has been directed to deploy all assets to minimise the impact of a water disruption and take steps to lessen the shutdown duration,” he said.

Selangor to shut illegal waterway businesses
The Star 6 Oct 16;

SHAH ALAM: Selangor has directed local authorities in the state to immediately shut down all illegal plants and businesses located along main rivers and tributaries.

State Environment Committee chairman Elizabeth Wong said the Department of Environment (DOE) had also been directed to show no mercy to those responsible in pollu­ting Sungai Semenyih over the past few weeks.

She said local authorities, DOE and Selangor Water Management Board (LUAS) had been ordered to work closely to beef up enforcement along the rivers, especially those used for water supply.

“We have to carry out 24-hour vigilance so that the culprits would not dare repeat this irresponsible act,” Wong said

She added that the recent contamination of Sungai Semenyih was clearly a case of how those responsible took the law for granted.

She said the number of enforcement personnel would be increased at the various agencies to provide more bite.

“All the agencies will have to do their own monitoring and ensure that those who have been issued with licences to operate a business do not flout environmental regulations,’’ she said.

Wong said that stern action would be taken against those responsible for the contamination at Sungai Semen­yih which caused water disruptions to more than 330,000 households in the Klang Valley.

The state exco member said the state government viewed the case very seriously and pledged tough action against the culprits.

“Investigation papers have been opened and the probe is ongoing,” said Wong, adding that the DOE and other agencies had obtained samples and other evidence from the site.

She said the contamination of Sungai Semenyih should not have occurred in the first place, adding that preventive measures must be taken by the relevant parties to prevent a recurrence.

Agencies checking on 120 factories operating along Sungai Semenyih
JADE CHAN The Star 7 Oct 16;

SEMENYIH: Enforcement officers from three agencies have started a joint operation to check on some 120 factories operating along Sungai Semenyih.

This follows the closure of an illegal factory that was said to be the cause of the water contamination in the Klang Valley.

It was jointly conducted by the Kajang Municipal Council, Hulu Langat Land Office and Department of Environment (DOE).

“During the operation, we confiscated goods and sealed off the premises of another factory found to be operating illegally.

“The team inspected eight premises, four of which had their licences revoked for flouting trade licensing, waste disposal and town planning bylaws,” said council’s public relations head Kamarul Izlan Sulaiman.

The factory site was located on agriculture land, so non-related activities were considered illegal.

“We issued a notice for the operator to stop all activities and to submit a report on their effluent disposal method within three days,” said Kamarul.

A visit by The Star saw workers from Kualiti Alam Sdn Bhd cleaning up the site while officers from Selangor Water Management Authority assisted in coordinating and enforcement works.

“We started cleaning and disposal work on Tuesday. Because of the large amount of waste, we will need about a week,” said Kualiti Alam Scheduled Waste Action Team consultant Datuk A. Mariasoosay.

Items found at the site included used engine oil, containers of sodium sulphate and a few types of chemicals.

“We have also taken samples of the soil and water. These samples will be tested and the results given to the DOE which will then decide what needs to be done,” he said.

Air Selangor Group said that the scheduled recovery plan of water supply to consumers was progressing well following the closure of the water treatment plant due to pollution.

“The plan is an effective measure to ensure that consumers do not experience water supply interruption for extended period,” said the group’s corporate communications head Amin Lin Abdullah.

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Malaysia: Villagers get to witness jumbo relocation

CHAN LI LEEN The Star 5 Oct 16;

SUNGAI SIPUT: Kampung Ulu Chemor villagers got first class tickets to watch the relocation process of elephants in their own backyard.

Several children even skipped school yesterday to catch National Elephant Conservation Centre (NECC) officers and state Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) rangers in action, assisted by two trained female elephants.

The five-hour operation involved an adult female and two male calves which were relocated to the Royal Belum State Park.

Villagers watched intently as the trained elephants, Abut and Rambai, were deployed to calm the two calves so that NECC and Perhilitan personnel could get near enough to sedate them.

Abut and Rambai then moved closer to the wild female elephant, which had earlier been tranquillised with darts, and stayed by her side while officers secured her legs with chains.

The wild female elephant, which has been named Mek Chemor, was later led by Abut and Rambai to a waiting heavy truck.

Then, it was the turn of the two youngsters, now named Mat Kinta and Mat Manjoi, to be loaded onto the truck with Mek Chemor.

NECC elephant unit head Nasharuddin Othman said the wild elephants were part of a bigger herd believed to have lost its way while moving between the Korbu Forest Reserve, Chemor and Tanjung Rambutan.

“We think there could be five more of them out there,” he said, adding that Mek Chemor was believed to be the mother of one of the calves.

According to Nasharuddin, Mek Chemor was more than 30 years old and weighed over three tonnes.

“The calves are perhaps around three years old and have not been completely weaned,” he said at the end of the five-hour exercise, adding that Perhilitan officers would continue to monitor the whereabouts of the other wild elephants.

Village chief Panizan Abdul Hamid, 58, said villagers have had their crops and fruit trees either eaten or destroyed by wild elephants since February.

“One villager suffered significant losses when all his fish died after the elephants took a dip in his fish pond. Occasionally, we find elephant droppings here and there,” he added.

Among those spotted in the crowd was 13-year-old Mohd Dinish Haikal Samsudin who, when asked if he had skipped school, declared: “It’s an elephant-watching holiday for me today.

“I’ve never seen them in real life. I even managed to touch the ones that are tamed,” added Mohd Dinish Haikal excitedly.

Three wild elephants relocated to Royal Belum Forest Reserve
NABILAH HAMUDIN New Straits Times 4 Oct 16;

IPOH: The three wild elephants caught in Ulu Kuang last Wednesday (Sept 28) have been successfully relocated to the Royal Belum Forest Reserve in Gerik, today.

The elephants were caught by the Perak Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) after they had destroyed plantations in Ulu Kuang, Chemor.

The trans-relocation operation was also assisted by the National Elephants Conservation Centre in Kuala Gandah, Pahang, involving 18 staff.

The centre’s Elephant Unit head Nasharuddin Othman said the elephants were detected on Sept 30, a day after the operation to track them was launched.

“It took us five days to complete the process because we also needed help from two female guide elephants, named Abot and Rambai, from our centre," he said.

Nasharuddin said the three elephants were believed to have strayed from their habitat in the Korbu Forest Reserve.

He said the elephants involved were a three-tonne female and its two calves, aged between two and three-years-old.

“We will continue monitoring the situation and will catch the remaining four to five elephants to prevent them from destroying the plantations.

“The elephants can go as far as Tanjung Rambutan,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hulu Kinta assemblyman Datuk Aminuddin Md Hanafiah said he had received complaints from villagers on the elephants that had encroached into their plantations.

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Indonesia: Fate of mangroves lies in shrimp aquaculture

Muhammad Ilman, Senior advisor of Wetlands International Indonesia in Bogor
Jakarta Post 4 Oct 16;

Mangroves are extremely important for mitigating global climate change and protecting communities from storm surges, coastal erosion and tsunami. They also provide food, building materials and medicine.

Indonesia has the largest areas of mangroves in the world. Unfortunately, the country’s shrimp industry is causing massive mangrove deforestation.

In a study for which I am one of the researchers, we contend that mangrove conservationists in Indonesia should work together with shrimp producers to save mangroves. Here is why.

For Indonesian, mangroves are crucial for the local economy. They directly support shrimp industries that earn about US$1.5 billion annually from exports alone, supporting the livelihoods of more than 1 million Indonesian people.

The facts showed that shrimp is the most important species in the country’s fishery sector.

Unfortunately, the benefits of shrimp come with costs, particularly to the mangrove ecosystem. Our study suggested that Indonesia’s mangrove area shrank from about 41,000 square kilometers in 1800 to 31,000 sq km today, mostly because of shrimp aquaculture.

There were many events that led to the disappearance of mangroves in the past, but the real tragedy occurred in 1998 when the Asian financial crisis devalued the Indonesian rupiah and consequently increased the value of exported shrimp in local currency.

At the same time, there was a world shortage of shrimp caused by a virus in shrimp farms elsewhere.

As a result, communities rushed to convert mangroves into shrimp ponds on an unprecedented scale to meet the demand for shrimp. In less than five years, the new shrimp farms had converted more than 4,000 sq km of mangroves, a scale that took decades in the previous shrimp farm expansion era.

The loss and degradation of mangroves had a dramatic impact on both the environment and the economy. Globally, an extra 0.19 Pg of carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere annually from the disturbed ecosystem, equivalent to the emissions from the Australian electricity, gas and water supply sector.

Locally, degraded mangroves exposed settlements and community assets to coastal erosion, wave inundation, storms and decreased fisheries productivity.

Shrimp aquaculture is not only Indonesia’s most important fishery sector, but it is also the most dangerous threat to the country’s mangroves.

Demand for shrimp is always high and is set to double by 2030, amounting to 600,000 tons a year for Indonesia. Statistically, this may not be a problem as Indonesia currently has about 8,000 sq km of shrimp ponds to fulfill this projected demand.

But the problem is shrimp pond productivity.

Despite the current government’s efforts to improve this situation, in the last five years Indonesia produced average of 400,000 tons per year and managed to export about 160,000 tons a year.

Large ponds are not in production because of technical and financial problems.

Only 6,000 sq km are active and most of them are traditional farms on the east coast of Kalimantan. The farms are unusually producing less than 100 kg per ha per year because the farmers lack the technical capacity to deal with the unique environmental conditions.

The best managed and resourced ponds at the same region could produce up to six times this much.

If the government continues with its current business-as-usual approach to shrimp farm production, high shrimp demand will continue enticing farmers to convert more and more mangroves into shrimp ponds, the easiest and least expensive way to increase production.

Our analysis showed that another 6,000 sq km of mangroves are in danger of conversion in the next two decades to balance the shrimp demand and production.

There is another danger present: oil palm plantations. Overlayed maps of oil palm plantation concession areas and mangroves areas in Indonesia revealed that the government has allocated more than 1,100 sq km of mangroves for plantations.

With this allocation, future concession holders could convert mangroves into oil palms with few legal constraints.

The Indonesian government actually has always showed favoritism to conserve mangroves. This can be seen in the creation of a (potentially) powerful institution to manage mangroves effectively, a multi-stakeholder group named the National Coordination Team for Mangrove Management (KKMN).

The KKMN’s task is to oversee implementation of Presidential Regulation No. 73/2012, the National Strategy for Mangroves Management (SNPEM), which operates under a no-net-loss principle to halt the loss of mangroves.

Unfortunately, the SNPEM approach is a business-as-usual strategy and fails to identify the seriousness of the shrimp farm threat. In fact, both shrimp farm expansion and oil palm plantation issues are nearly absent from the document.

Without straightforward policy intervention over the issues, the SNPEM could fail to prevent a repeat of the past tragedy.

The world shrimp demand would most likely continue increasing over the next two decades. To deal with the situation, Indonesia’s mangrove conservationists should make peace with their adversaries, the shrimp producers.

By helping them put the current shrimp production system back on track, shrimp producers would not only satisfy demand but also restore vast abandoned farms back into being mangroves.

We estimate that government investment to improve shrimp production alone could avoid the disappearance of 6,000 sq km mangroves in two decades.

If the effort is combined with revoking oil palm concessions on mangrove areas and maintain other threats (urban development, timber exploitation and mining) at a moderate level, the potential loss of mangroves may be reduced to only 230 sq km in the next two decades.

The writer is a doctoral researcher at the University of Queensland, Australia, and senior advisor at Wetlands International Indonesia.

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Indonesia: Confiscated Napoleon fish to be released into natural habitat

N.Adri N.Adri The Jakarta Post 4 Oct 16;

Dozens of Humphead wrasse, also known as Napoleon fish, confiscated during an operation in Balikpapan waters last week will be returned to their natural habitat, a conservation officer has said.

The head of the Balikpapan work unit at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry’s (KKP) Pontianak marine and coastal resources management agency (BPSPL), Ricky, said the Napoleon fish were seized from the machine vessel KM Nagama Biru 01 when it passed through Balikpapan waters in the middle of last week.

“We are looking for the right location to release the Napoleon fish,” he said on Monday.

Ricky said the Bontang waters, around 350 kilometers north of Balikpapan, could be a suitable release site for the Napoleon fish because the area had healthy coral reefs. It was also likely that the protected fish species would be returned back to their original habitat in Derawan Islands, Berau, East Kalimantan, he went on.

The confiscated fish are currently quarantined in a facility rented by the KKP at Pelabuhan Rakyat in Kampung Baru, Balikpapan. Conservation officers feed the fish and replace the sea water in their ponds at least once a day.

The KM Nagama Biru 01’s captain earlier claimed the 180 Napoleon fish were bought from fishermen in Derawan Islands. The vessel was intercepted by a sea security patrol on its way to Bali.

BPSPL Pontianak surveys reveal Napoleon fish in Derawan Islands, which comprise Derawan, Sangalaki, Kakaban and Maratua islands, are on the brink of extinction. “There has been an excessive exploitation of Napoleon fish in the area,” said Ricky. (ebf)

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Indonesia: One step back in effort to curb plastic waste

Stefani Ribka The Jakarta Post 4 Oct 16;

No charge: A minimarket attendant provides a plastic bag for a customer on Jl. Palmerah Selatan in Jakarta on Monday. Plastic bags are now free of charge.(JP/Donny Fernando)

In less than a year, the country has taken a step back in plastic waste management, as retailers have stopped charging for plastic shopping bags.

Kezia Grace Nauli, an 18-year-old university student, was puzzled when finding out that a plastic bag at the supermarket or other retail stores would no longer cost her.

“Rp 200 [15 US cents] per bag might seem like nothing, but I do think it has an impact on reducing plastic waste,” she said on Monday.

The decision to scrap the plastic bag charge was made by the Indonesian Retailers Association (Aprindo), effective since last Saturday.

Its move goes against the government’s call to reduce plastic waste, as the latter previously urged retailers to charge customers for plastic bags.

The idea to charge for plastic bags was put forward in the wake of the government’s goal to cut 1.9 million tons of waste from the 68 million tons of waste projected in 2019.

In 2015 alone, the country produced 64 million tons of waste, with plastic shopping bags accounting for 14 percent of the trash, according to data from the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

The government’s call to reduce waste was followed up by a ministry circular requiring retailers to charge Rp 200 per plastic bag, during a trial period from Feb. 21 until May.

The circular’s policy was enforced in 23 cities. In June, the ministry announced the trial would continue until it issued a regulation in July and expanded the coverage to 514 cities and regencies.

However, no regulation has been issued and Aprindo claims the absence of one has given various parties, especially in the regions, the chance to intervene and complain to retailers over the fee.

“Regional administrations, civil societies and police officials have investigated some of our members, trying to determine the legal basis of the plastic bag charge and urging us to free the public from paying. The biggest public objection has been voiced in Palembang [South Sumatra province],” Aprindo chairman Roy N. Mandey told a press conference on Monday.

Aprindo also attributes the public’s objection to uneven implementation of the policy, with regional administrations in 10 cities setting the fee at Rp 1,500 to Rp 10,000 per bag.

The objection contradicts data from the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) and the ministry itself that shows public acceptance of the policy.

In March, a YLKI survey revealed 26.8 percent of customers accepted the policy and understood why they were being charged, while the ministry’s survey — from February to May — said 87.1 percent of customers brought their own bags when shopping.

Retailers say they will continue giving plastic bags for free until the ministry issues a regulation. “We support the government’s pay-for-plastic policy, but we just need a clear regulation. We don’t seek profit from it because we use the money to buy plastic again,” Roy said.

The ministry says it plans to issue a regulation in November.

Tuti H. Mintarsih, the ministry’s director general for dangerous toxic material and waste management, said her side had prepared a draft and shared its content with regional administrations.

Separately, the Olefin, Aromatic and Plastics Industry Association (Inaplas) has challenged the ministry’s waste data. Inaplas says total plastic bag production per year only reaches 1 million, instead of 9 million that makes up for 14 percent of total waste.

Inaplas business development chairman Budi Sadiman estimated that plastic bag production dropped 25 to 35 percent in the first half owing to the pay-for-plastic policy, among other factors.

“We agree with this pay-for-plastic program, but it would be better if the government reduced waste by fixing its waste management system first and foremost,” he said.

Pay for plastic bag campaign hits snag
The Jakarta Post 6 Oct 16;

The government’s environmental protection program has hit a serious setback after the country’s major retailers decided to stop charging for plastic bags on the grounds that they did not have any legal basis for continuing the so-called pay for plastic bag program.

The retailers’ decision to stop supporting the pay for plastic bag campaign has once again indicated the lack of commitment on the part of the government in reducing the surging use of plastics in Indonesia, now the world’s second-largest plastic waste producer after China.

We deeply regret the termination of the program because it occurred when people had begun to accept the initiative. Shoppers’ positive responses could be seen at many major retailers, especially in Jakarta. Many people had voluntarily begun to carry their own bags although the charge for plastic bags was relatively insignificant. The people’s response was quite encouraging as it indicated they were willing to do their part to help reduce plastic waste.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry, in cooperation with the Association of Indonesian Retailers (Aprindo), launched a trial program for the pay for plastic bag campaign in February. Under the five-month program, which formally ended in June, shoppers were required to pay Rp 200 (1.5 US cents) per bag. Almost all modern retailers in the country’s major cities took part in the program, although some of them, mostly outside Java, stopped the program due to people’s objections.

In its explanation, Aprindo said it decided to halt the program last week because the existing regulation issued by the Environment and Forestry Ministry was valid only until June, the end of the trial program. The association is waiting for a new ruling from the ministry to resume charging for plastic bags.

The ministry has not given any statement in relation to the termination of the plastic bag charge but it previously said it would issue a new regulation with some improvements if the program saw positive results.

We strongly recommend the ministry continue the program and issue a new regulation for its implementation with some modifications, especially related to the charge imposed. Rp 200 is certainly too low, but charging shoppers more than Rp 2,000 per bag, for example, could create controversy.

Besides setting a realistic charge, the new regulation should also clearly stipulate the types of retailers that have to participate in the program. It is important to explain to the public that the proceeds from plastic bag sales will be used for environmental protection efforts and will not go to the retailers’ coffers. This could prevent retailers being accused of taking advantage of the program.

According to a study published by the journal Science, Indonesia produced 3.2 million tons of plastic waste in 2010, second most after China. About 1.29 million tons of that ended up in the ocean, while some floated along the country’s polluted rivers.

In addition to the plastic bag charge, more programs are needed to curb the mounting plastic waste, such as promoting recycling. If realized, the government’s plan to impose excise duty on plastic packaging would be also helpful to curb the surge in plastic usage.

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Indonesia: 550,000 ha of forestland in W. Nusa Tenggara in critical condition

Panca Nugraha The Jakarta Post 5 Oct 16;

About 550,000 hectares of forestland or half all the forests in West Nusa Tenggara are in critical condition because of illegal logging, a top official said Tuesday.

“We recorded 555,427 hectares of forestland in the province in critical condition. This is 52 percent of our total forests. The causes are illegal logging, illegal trade and encroachment,” West Nusa Tenggara Forestry Agency head Husnanindiaty Nurdin said.

The province has recorded a total of 1.07 million hectares of forestland, comprising protected forests (449,141 ha or 41.91 percent), production forests (448,946 ha or 41.89 percent) and conservation forests (173,636 ha or 16.2 percent). Of the 555,427 ha, 157,358 ha are in severely critical condition.

Husnanindiaty said the office had uncovered at least 146 cases of illegal logging from 2011 to 2015. “In 2016 until September, we found 27 cases,” she said.

From the 27 cases, 33 trucks carrying logs, 313 cubic meters of processed wood and more than 3,700 logs were confiscated.

She said her office lacked human resources to monitor forests. “One forest ranger monitors 13,000 ha of forestland,” she went on. (evi)

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Indonesia: World Bank, Denmark Chip In for Indonesia's Forest Management

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 4 Oct 16;

Jakarta. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has launched a new project to improve forest management and help out communities living near forest areas in Indonesia.

The initiative, officially called "Promoting Sustainable Community-Based Natural Resource Management and Institutional Development Project," is backed by a $17.5 million grant from the World Bank's Forest Investment Program and 40 million Danish kroner ($60 million) from the Danish International Development Agency.

"This initiative puts into action the concept of sustainable forest management and helps reduce emission from deforestation and forest degradation," Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said in a statement on Monday (03/10).

The five-year project is expected to help the Indonesian government integrate policies and legislations concerning forest management, form new partnerships and increase the skills of local administrators.

"Communities living near forest areas are often dependent on produce from the forests to earn their income, but increasing threat to forest lands is making these communities more vulnerable to poverty," Rodrigo Chaves, World Bank country director for Indonesia, said.

Danish Ambassador Casper Klynge said Denmark's contribution is meant to help the Indonesian government reduce threats to forests, including widespread fires.

"This grant complements our earlier support for the Ecosystem Restoration Concessions model, where forest-based livelihoods and management of forests with the involvement of local communities are also essential," Casper said.

The new project will be implemented in 10 locations in Indonesia.

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Indonesia: New Hope for Indonesia's Pangolins and Helmeted Hornbills on World Animal Day

Ratri M. Siniwi Jakarta Globe 4 Oct 16;

Jakarta. While the world celebrated World Animal Day on Tuesday (04/10), 2,500 delegates from around the globe continued the fight for wildlife conservation at the 17th Conference of Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

CITES has been the largest conference on trade controls for 500 endangered species of flora and fauna around the world.

So far, the conference saw several items of good news, such as a global ban on the world's most traded mammal, pangolins.

This creates a gleam of hope for Indonesia's critically endangered Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), as populations have declined by 80 percent in just more than two decades due to illegal trade.

The ban was unanimously agreed on by 182 nations, but ironically, according to the Guardian news outlet, Indonesia opposed the move to protect the species.

Last Sunday, the conference also agreed to adopt stronger regulations on conservation of the critically endangered helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), which is highly vulnerable to trade for its rare red "casques," or ivory.

"This is a great victory for the helmeted hornbill that has been ruthlessly hunted for its red ivory as the elephant has been killed off for its ivory," said Noviar Andayani, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Indonesia program. "Many have heard about the elephant ivory crisis and now it is time to hear more about the helmeted hornbill ivory crisis and take swift action to save it."

The tropical forests of Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Myanmar are home to the majestic species, which is known for its distinguishable laugh-like calls. Then birds are mainly hunted for their tail feathers for use in traditional attire.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, helmeted hornbills are also critically endangered due to habitat degradation.

Those pushing for the conservation of elephants and rhinoceroses can celebrate also, after CITES deciding on going against Swaziland's proposal to continue trade of southern white rhino horn, and a proposal by Namibia and Zimbabwe to be allowed to sell ivory to raise funds for conservation.

The three countries believe the money generated from the rhino horn and ivory trade could help their efforts to conserve the African elephant (Loxodonta) and white rhino (Ceratotherium simum).

The CITES conference began on Sept. 24 and will end on Wednesday.

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Synthetic rhino horn ready 'in two years'

Matt McGrath BBC 5 Oct 16;

The man behind attempts to develop synthetic rhino horn has told the BBC that he hopes to have a "bio-identical" product ready to market in two years.

Matthew Markus, CEO of Pembient, believes that introducing a highly similar but manufactured horn could help stem the rhino-poaching crisis.

Here at the Cites meeting the plans have been condemned by conservationists as "too risky".

Campaigners want the species body to ban synthetics from endangered animals.

Rhino start-up

Over the years, the development of human-made alternatives to some natural species has seen some success.

Orchids produced in the laboratory have served as an alternative for collectors while a synthesised version of the chemical that's found in bear bile has been accepted in traditional Chinese medicine.

Now, a number of start-ups are seeking to develop alternatives for rhino horn and elephant ivory.

The most advanced is said to be a company called Pembient who believe they are very close to producing solid, horn-like material.

"Earlier this year, we produced low fidelity prototypes, they are solids but they don't have all the properties of rhino horn and we are working now to produce these high quality bio-identical solids," CEO Matthew Markus told BBC News at the Cites meeting.

"The higher fidelity prototypes may take two years and that's unless all this flak scares investors off."

The "flak" that Mr Markus is talking about is the opposition from conservationists and wildlife campaigners to his ideas.
They are concerned about anything that could make the current rhino poaching surge worse.

The number of rhinos killed for their horns has risen dramatically over the past nine years. In 2007, just 13 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Last year, that number was 1,175.

At a side event here in Johannesburg, campaigners vociferously denounced the synthetic rhino idea.

"We are very concerned that these synthetic products would provide a cover for illegal trade," said Lee Henry from WWF.
"How are enforcement officers on the ground supposed to distinguish between the two?"

Illicit market

But for Mr Markus, that inability to readily differentiate between his product and the real thing is exactly what he's hoping to achieve.

"This is an illicit market, these people are not supported by states, so here counterfeits especially if they are exactly the same should have a very disruptive effect.

"The only thing that guarantees that you are getting the product you think you are getting is the product itself, if you can destroy the uniqueness of that product through bio-fabrication, I think that's a win."

Mr Markus acknowledges that his approach is not without risk - but he maintains that the synthetic model has been well scrutinised and is less of a threat than his opponents maintain.

But campaigners are not convinced. They are concerned that the synthetic materials could inspire new markets and make the situation for the rhino even worse.

"In traditional medicines, people prefer wild products, that's seen as more valuable - they don't want products from farms or synthetic markets," said Lee Henry.

"For a species like rhino that are being decimated by poaching for their products, do we want to test this now? I think its too big a risk to take, history has shown that when you create alternative products it doesn't reduce demand for the genuine article."

Here at Cites some countries have argued that synthetic products derived from endangered species should come under the regulations of the Convention.

So if something is made from the DNA of a rhino that is on Appendix I, then all trade in those synthetic products should be banned as well.

The Cites secretariat will assess the position but it will be next year before there is any clarity on whether they have the power to regulate or not.

Matthew Markus says he will accept any outcome based on science and impartial regulation. But banning his products, if they ever reach the market, would be a mistake he says, if people are serious about stopping rhino poaching.

"The fastest way to shut a market down is to support counterfeiters and not prosecute them."

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Planet at its hottest in 115,000 years thanks to climate change, experts say

Global warming is said to be bringing temperatures last seen during an interglacial era, when sea level was 6-9 meters (20-30ft) higher than today
Oliver Milman The Guardian 4 Oct 16;

The global temperature has increased to a level not seen for 115,000 years, requiring daunting technological advances that will cost the coming generations hundreds of trillions of dollars, according to the scientist widely credited with bringing climate change to the public’s attention.

A new paper submitted by James Hansen, a former senior Nasa climate scientist, and 11 other experts states that the 2016 temperature is likely to be 1.25C above pre-industrial times, following a warming trend where the world has heated up at a rate of 0.18C per decade over the past 45 years.

This rate of warming is bringing Earth in line with temperatures last seen in the Eemian period, an interglacial era ending 115,000 years ago when there was much less ice and the sea level was 6-9 meters (20-30ft) higher than today.

In order to meet targets set at last year’s Paris climate accord to avoid runaway climate change, “massive CO2 extraction” costing an eye-watering $104tn to $570tn will be required over the coming century with “large risks and uncertain feasibility” as to its success, the paper states.

“There’s a misconception that we’ve begun to address the climate problem,” said Hansen, who brought climate change into the public arena through his testimony to the US congress in the 1980s. “This misapprehension is based on the Paris climate deal where governments clapped themselves on the back but when you look at the science it doesn’t compute, it’s not true.

“Even with optimistic assumptions (future emissions reduction) will cost hundreds of trillions of dollars. It’s potentially putting young people in charge of a situation that is beyond their control. It’s not clear they will be able to take such actions.”

The paper, submitted as a discussion paper to the Earth System Dynamics journal, is a departure from the usual scientific process as it has yet to be peer reviewed and has been launched to support a legal case waged by a group of young people against the US government.

Last year, 21 youths aged between 8 and 19 years old filed a constitutional lawsuit against the Obama administration for failing to do enough to slow climate change. Hansen and his granddaughter are parties to legal challenge, which was filed in Oregon and asserts that the government has violated young people’s rights to life, liberty and property.

Recent studies have cast doubt over whether the world will stay with an aspirational temperature target set in Paris
Hansen, who has become increasingly outspoken on climate change since retiring from Nasa in 2013, said he recognized some scientists might object to publicizing the paper so soon but that “we are running out of time on this climate issue.”

The courts need to step in to force governments to act on climate change because they are largely free of the corrupting influence of special interests, Hansen said. He repeated his call for a global tax to be placed upon carbon emissions and said that fossil fuel companies should be forced to pay for emissions extraction in the same way the tobacco industry has been sued over the health impact of cigarettes.

“The science is crystal clear, we have to phase out emissions over the next few decades,” Hansen said. “That won’t happen without substantial actions by Congress and the executive branch and that’s not happening so we need the courts to apply pressure, as they did with civil rights.”

Several recent studies have cast doubt over whether the world will stay with an aspirational target set in Paris of a 1.5C limit on the average global temperature rise. This guardrail, and even the 2C limit agreed by 195 nations, appears dependent on as-yet undeveloped technology that would remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Under this scenario, huge emissions cuts would be supplemented by a widespread conversion to biofuels that would be burned for energy. The emissions from this energy would then be buried underground. Some sort of futuristic technology that sucks CO2 directly from the atmosphere may also be required.

Hansen said this is a “dubious” proposition because it requires a vast change in land use at a time where a growing global population will require more food. There are also major doubts whether technology to capture CO2 and lock it underground, often touted as a panacea by the fossil fuel industry, will be developed in time to help avoid the dangerous sea level rise, drought, heatwaves and disease spurred by warming temperatures.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that carbon dioxide levels will not drop below the symbolic 400 parts per million (ppm) mark in our lifetimes – the highest concentration of CO2 since the Pliocene era 3m years ago.

The environment of this time, where sea levels were around 65ft higher than today and trees were able to grow near the north pole due to a lack of ice, is a “bellwether for what future climate might be like,” according to Bruce Bauer, a scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Michael Mann, a prominent climatologist at Penn State University, agreed that CO2 removal will be required if the world was to avoid 1.5C warming although the 2C limit “could likely be achieved without negative emissions, but it would require urgent action, as I have argued myself is necessary.”.

Mann added that Hansen’s paper is “interesting” but tackles a huge range of topics and is unconventional in its use as a tool to support a legal case.

“Along with the paper being publicized prior to peer review, this will certainly raise eyebrows about whether or not this breaches the firewall many feel should exist wherein policy agenda should not influence the way that science is done,” Mann told the Guardian via email.

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